Florida is the only State with small squirrels with short tails, brown bodies, and less fluffy hair. However, the climate is not suitable for these tiny animals, but the abundance of oak, pines, and acorns attracts them.
Why are Squirrels Smaller in Florida? Squirrels are smaller in Florida due to insufficient space for hibernation, lack of food supply in home gardens, and cold weather conditions. Also, they do not grow due to complex reproduction, produce tiny kits, less body fur to defend against climate changes, and immature tail growth. However, Eastern Gray, Southern Flying, and Fox Squirrel species in this area have an average size of 12 to 18 inches with a lifespan of 3 to 13 years, and they eat nuts, acorns, ground plants, and insects.
In addition, more than 65 types of squirrels are present across the USA, and only three species are present in Florida gardens. However, they are dangerous for plants and bird feeders due to their sharp teeth.
Why are Squirrels So Small in Florida?
They have tiny bodies with undefined tails because of the following factors. However, they survive in this State by developing versatile eating habits.
The tree squirrels do not hibernate because they live in nests with stacked food and cope with the environmental changes. But, ground squirrels undergo this procedure and resist the harmful effects of cold weather on their bodies.
For this purpose, they dig small holes in the mud of home gardens. They store food in these holes and hide themselves during winter.
It is a state of static metabolism which promotes their survival in the absence of fresh nutritional food. Immature females hide in these holes for their structural growth.
The adult animals perform this activity before reproduction. But, they cannot get enough burrows in the house gardens.
They cannot take advantage of this particular procedure which restricts their growth.
Instead, they rush around to find food objects during this time. As a result, it changes their physiological appearance.
A few species do not hibernate and stack food for 6 to 7 months. In such circumstances, they remain unaffected by cold air and other environmental effects. But, it reduces their growth level and results in tiny bodies.
Florida has several trees with nuts and fruits, but gardeners do not offer sufficient food to these animals. As a result, they develop tiny bodies due to malnutrition.
They have limited food availability on the ground, and a few cannot climb a tree. It results in abnormal growth of body parts, and they develop a deficient immune system.
In such circumstances, they usually eat the leaves, fallen shrubs, grass, and ground nuts. These food items cannot fulfill their needs, and they crave food.
It makes them tiny with low growth levels, and these animals die without completing their lifespan.
In such circumstances, they cannot get enough energy to hunt the food particles.
As a result, their bodies shrink due to an insufficient supply of nutrients to the growing parts.
As a result, they seem smaller than their ancestors because their body tissues and vital organs become tiny.
Effects of climate
They live and grow in the summer and autumn, but Florida has different climate conditions. Mostly, it remains humid from mid-May to the third last month of the year.
The subtropical weather is not beneficial for their growth because they live in an environment of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The newborn kits cannot tolerate the cold rainy weather. But, the tiny animal does not die and develops a survival mechanism by utilizing a lot of energy.
As a result, it reduces in size with inadequate growth of its body parts. A 5 to 9 months kits is small and require a closed space to keep its body warm. But, the location does not provide such spots in open gardens.
Moreover, the state has a specific temperature from 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. You can identify them in every season despite excessive humidity and cold air.
They have a complex reproductive cycle in this state because the female does not get enough food and a supportive environment.
As a result, its body weight decreases due to insufficient nutrient supply to all organs and their kits.
Also, the gardens cannot facilitate the additional feed particles for the mother and newborn squirrel.
It produces small kittens with tiny bodies and undefined organs. Moreover, their babies struggle for food and a growth environment.
They cannot increase the size of their bodies throughout their life. Their age rises according to their biological life cycles. But, their body remains small during their lives.
Moreover, they require more time to start food hunting, and malnutrition shrinks them.
They cannot increase the body lengths with the standard growing pattern.
Also, several fungal infections can affect these kits with low immunity and die without completing their lifespan.
Less body furs
They have less fur on their bodies due to hereditary problems. The newborn inherits all the traits of its parents.
This less amount of fur reduces their defense mechanism against the cold temperatures of Florida. As a result, the ground species hide behind the plants and trees.
In such circumstances, their body weight decreases due to inappropriate food intake.
Moreover, the kits take 3 to 4 months to become habitual to the habitat. During this period, they cannot grow beyond the size of their ancestors and spend their lives as tiny animals.
Immature tail growth
The tails facilitate locomotion in ground squirrels with fast movements. They can jump on trees through these organs.
The organ has several fluffy furs that cover the surface. They survive the cold temperatures with their tails.
But, these have small tails at birth with less fur.
Also, they have less locomotion with slow movements. They cannot stretch their bodies and seems tiny.
In the home gardens, you can find them with curved and less fluffy tails with tiny bodies. The less fluffy tails have low survival ability.
Predators attack them because they cannot run with weak tails.
What do squirrels eat in Florida?
They depend on all types of nuts in Florida and eat acorns because they fall on the surface of gardens.
They depend on the shells of these food items by splitting and chewing them. They stack acorns in the holes for their newborns.
The Eastern grey species can eat pine, grapes, blackberries, insects, and mushrooms. It can eat different seeds and oak.
Moreover, it eats plant bulbs, attacks frogs, and swallows bird eggs. They can eat leaves and plants in the gardens.
Flying squirrels are tinier than many other species and can eat mushrooms and lichen.
The sap of trees and fallen bird eggs attract this specie. However, in gardens, their diet depends on the available nuts on the ground.
What type of squirrels can live in Florida?
It has three species of small squirrels that can survive the climate and inadequate food supply.
Eastern gray is one of the most popular species in Florida house gardens because it is frequently present in them.
The gardeners remove them with challenging procedures because they can damage the grass and ground plants. It can grow from 9 to 19 inches with a maximum weight of around 420 to 610 grams.
Moreover, the state is a home for southern flying and fox squirrel. The flying species are the smallest and have a body of 9 to 11 inches. It weighs around 2 ounces to 3 ounces.
The fox squirrel is one of the largest species that can increase its size up to 28 inches with an average weight of around 2 to 4 pounds.
What is the life span of squirrels in Florida?
They have a short lifespan than wild species due to limiting food factors and inappropriate climate conditions.
They have an average shelf life of around 3 to 4 years. However, it varies according to their health, internal immunity, defense mechanism, species, and density of furs.
A few cannot survive due to predators, and others develop genetic problems that shorten their life span. The Eastern species have an expected lifespan of around 3 to 6 years.
But, they cannot live up to 3 years in the gardens, and the male fox squirrel lives less long than females and covers around 9 to 9.5 years.
However, females can live with a healthy reproduction cycle for around 13 to 13.4 years. But, they have an average life duration of 6 to 8 years in gardens.
The flying specie has a lifespan of around 8 to 11 years with suitable environmental conditions and sufficient food.